JOHN WORRALL case of realism’s ‘explanation’ of the success of our current theories there can of course be no question of any independent tests. Scientific. Structural realism was introduced into contemporary philosophy of science by John Worrall in as a way to break the impasse that results. (1) Epistemic Structural Realism, or ESR for short, holds that our epistemic by the publication of John Worrall’s ‘Structural Realism: The Best of Both Worlds?.

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If that is so even though they were predictively successful, then the success of our best current theories does not mean structurap have got the nature of the world right either.

However, Pooley argues that there is no such analogy, or at least not a very deep one, in part because he thinks that there is no metaphysical underdetermination in GR. When it comes to wholesale arguments against scientific realism, perhaps the most influential until recently was the underdetermination argument, according to which the existence of empirical equivalents to our best scientific theories implies that we should withhold epistemic commitment to them.

There are examples of theories that were mature and had novel predictive success but whose central theoretical terms do not refer. Philosophy in Physics —Oxford: The problem of individuality now concerns whether fields themselves are individuals, or whether they are the properties of spacetime points. Kyle Stanfordalso argues that we cannot distinguish the structural claims of theories from their claims about content or natures. Jean-Michel Delhotel – unknown. We cannot know the individuals that instantiate the structure of the world but we can know their properties and relations.

It has been and is endorsed by many philosophers, including, for example, Aristotle and Leibniz.


There in no general agreement among philosophers that any of the metaphysical theories of, say, universals is adequate, and arguably metaphysical categories inherited from the ancient Greeks are not appropriate for contemporary science. This led him to the claim that science can only describe the world up to isomorphism, and hence to 3 above since according to him we know only the second-order isomorphism class of the structure of the world and not the first-order structure itself.

Others who have contributed to structural realism have more explicitly signalled a significant departure from traditional realist metaphysics. Gower’s historical survey of structural realism also discusses how structuralism figures in the thought of Ernst Cassirer, Moritz Schlick, Rudolf Carnap and Bertrand Russell.

The best-known of these arguments, although not necessarily the most compelling of them, is the notorious pessimistic meta-induction, according to which reflection on the abandonment of theories in the history of science motivates the expectation that our best current scientific theories will themselves be abandoned, and hence that we ought not to assent to them.

University of Pittsburgh Press. In the latter case the problem becomes whether the spacetime points are individuals. According to Zahar14 the continuity in science is in the intension rather than the extension of its concepts. In Defense of Convergent Realism. He argues that if we believe that the mathematical structure of theories is fundamentally important for ontology, then we need a semantics for theories that addresses the representative role of mathematics directly.

These contemporary debates recapitulate the work of some of the greatest philosophers of science. Votsis argues that the conclusion of the Newman argument doesn’t undermine ESR after all.

John Worrall, Structural realism: The best of both worlds? – PhilPapers

There is no unanimity about the difference between individuals, objects and entities among philosophers but one neutral way of putting the issue is to ask whether there are only individual objects in the logical sense of object as the value of a first-order variable, or whether there are individuals in some more substantive sense for example, being subject to laws of identity, or being substances.


In his paper, Worrall sets out an account and defense of epistemic structural realism and responds to objections that have been raised to it, including the Newman problem.

University of Chicago Press. Once again the challenge for the critic of structuralism is to show that more than the minimal logical notion of an object is required.

Structural Realism

Esfeld and Oliver Pooley hold the latter view but Esfeld goes further and claims that if there are intrinsic properties they are ontologically secondary and derivative of relational properties see below. Hence, others have sought to modify the substantivalism.

Ladyman, Linnebo, and Richard Pettigrew present some relevant results in philosophical logic. It is arguable that this is the purest structuralism possible, for the notion of structure employed refers to the higher-order properties of a theory, those that are only expressible rezlism purely formal terms. Ramsey and the Vienna Circle, pp.

This article reviews the issues and provides a guide for further reading.

On this view, individual objects of a particular kind are qualitatively identical. There is a forthcoming special issue of Synthese dedicated to examining the relationship between structuralism and causation. It is widely held that relations between individuals cannot individuate those same individuals: NMA holds that realism is the only view that does not make the predictive success of science a miracle.